The first-ever study on deloads | Biolayne
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The first-ever study on deloads

Gaining more from doing less? The effects of a one-week deload period during supervised resistance training on muscular adaptations
Coleman et al (2023)
REPS: The first-ever study on deloads

Deloads are commonly used by people looking to maximize muscle growth and strength as they can supposedly help maximize training induced adaptations. But is this really the case? This is the first ever study to explore the effects of deloading on muscle hypertrophy, strength, muscle endurance and body composition in the form of a training study.


What did they test? The authors explored the effect of a deload week, in the form of a week off from training, on hypertrophy, strength, muscular endurance and body composition during an 8 week training cycle in trained individuals.
What did they find? A week off in the middle of an 8 week training cycle did not affect muscle hypertrophy and somewhat negatively impact strength.
What does it mean for you? Taking a week off training may not necessarily lead to more muscle growth but it will also not negatively affect it. However, there are cases where it may affect your strength, although such an effect is probably temporary and nothing to worry about too much.

What’s the Problem?

In the context of lifting for strength and hypertrophy, deloads are periods of intentionally easier training aimed at reducing physiological and psychological fatigue 1. Deloads are a very common practice in the world of lifting, especially in strength and physique sports (like powerlifting and bodybuilding) 1, with some coaches and athletes even regarding them as essential for progress. The idea behind deloads is that when you’ve been training very hard for a long period of time and are feeling quite fatigued, you intentionally take a week of easier training, or some time off, to allow for your body to adapt to the training stress, recover and allow you to continue training hard and making gains. Some have even argued that past literature hints at deloads being a potential adaptation potentiating technique, mainly by (re)sensitizing ones muscles and thus allowing for greater future growth 2 3

As we mentioned in the previous issue of REPS, the current literature on deloads is rather limited, with only one study that has directly explored deloads. That one study was also the study we reviewed on REPS, a study that I had the honor to help with, which laid the foundation for future research on the concept of deloads. The study looked at the current deload practices of strength and physique sport coaches but, although a useful study for both researchers and practitioners, it was not an intervention study. The study did not actually take a bunch of people and have them deload to truly see what effect deloads have on muscle mass, strength, etc. 

Understanding the effects of deloading on strength and muscle mass can have huge implications for almost everyone who engages in resistance training, regardless of training experience or strength level. If taking some time off or having an easy training week here and there, even before it’s needed, can lead to more significant muscle gains in the long term, then it would be silly to continuously train for very long periods until it becomes necessary to take time off. 
Although some studies in the past have looked at periods of detraining, there are no intervention studies directly exploring the effects of a deload on strength and hypertrophy. This just-published (as a pre-print) study  by Coleman et al 4 is the first study to ever explore the concept of deloads in the form of an intervention. I had the honor of being part of the research team behind this novel study and was fortunate enough to be present for some of the data collection at the Applied Muscle Development Lab in New York. Let’s have a closer look at the study, its findings and what they mean for all of us.

Purpose & Hypothesis

The study aimed to investigate the effect of deloads, in the form of a week off from training, during an 8 week training block on hypertrophy, strength, power and body composition. The authors hypothesized that the group incorporating the deload week in their training would make greater hypertrophy gains than the non-deload group.

What Did They Test and How?


A total of 50 individuals were recruited to take part in the study but after accounting for exclusions and dropouts, 39 participants completed the study. The participants were university students (around 22 years old) with their training experience being around 3-4 years. The participants were required to be free from any musculoskeletal injuries, to abstain from taking creatine during the duration of the study and to attend >85% of the sessions in order to successfully complete the study.

Study Procedures

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About the author

About Dr. Pak
Dr. Pak

Pak is the Chief Editor of REPS, an online coach and a researcher. Pak did his PhD at Solent University in the UK on “the minimum effective training dose for strength”. As a Researcher, Pak is a Visiting Scholar in Dr. Schoenfeld's Applied Muscle Development Lab in New York City. Pak's research focuses on all...[Continue]

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